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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

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Just measure such features of them as the scientist might
measure; and it does not content itself with merely
reporting about them in the way an external observer
would do. It insists that the story cannot be told
correctly unless we see the personalities from the inside,
feeling with them as an actor might feel the part he is
playing—thinking their thoughts over again and sitting
in the position not of the observer but the doer of the
action. If it is argued that this is impossible—as indeed
it is—not merely does it still remain the thing to aspire,
to, but in any case the historian must put himself in the
place of the historical personage, must feel his predica-
ment, must think as though he were that man. Without
this art not only is it impossible to tell the story correctly
but it is impossible to interpret the very documents on
which the reconstruction depends. Traditional his-
torical writing emphasises the importance of sympathetic
imagination for the purpose of getting inside human
beings. We may even say that this is part of the science
of history for it produces communicable results—the
insight of one historian may be ratified by scholars in
general, who then give currency to the interpretation
that is produced. A Thomas Carlyle might convince
us that he had found a clue to Cromwell, and yet he
might fail to carry us with him in his reconstruction of
another person like Mirabeau. The whole process of
emptying oneself in order to catch the outlook and
feelings of men not like-minded with oneself is an
activity which ought to commend itself to the Christian.
In this sense the whole range of history is a boundless
field for the constant exercise of Christian charity*